Ottawa, October 27, 2010 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the description of a sexual assault broadcast during the Big Breakfast Show on CFWF-FM (The Wolf, Regina). The sexual assault involved one man twisting off another man’s testicles and throwing them in the snow. A listener complained that the account of the assault was “obscene” and “sexually explicit”, and so should not have been broadcast. The CBSC concluded that, although the station demonstrated poor judgment by airing such a descriptive account at 7:25 am without providing listeners with sufficient warning, the broadcast did not violate the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics because it was not actually sexually explicit.
The story was covered on The Wolf’s morning show on January 14, 2010. The commentator prefaced his remarks with “it’s really horrifying so I’ll pass it along” and proceeded to explain that the case, which had occurred in Germany, had involved one man playing with his male friend’s “junk” while intoxicated. Quoting court officials, The Wolf host read that the man “twisted [the other]’s scrotum [...] until it broke. Then he took the testicles and hurled them from the window.” The host added that “the cops found his nuts lying in a snowbank” and then laughed and said “that’s hilarious.”
The listener argued that this broadcast was contrary to broadcasting regulations regarding sexually explicit material. The broadcaster acknowledged that the story was “disturbing”, but noted that it was a real news story and that the announcer had just used “everyday terms” to tell it.
The CBSC’s Prairie Regional Panel examined the complaint under Clause 9(b) of the CAB Code of Ethics, which prohibits the broadcast of “unduly sexually explicit material” on radio. The Panel found no Code breach, pointing out that it was a description of a “sexual assault” and not an explicit description of a sexual act. The Panel also did not consider that “the use of either the colloquial or the anatomical terms is either obscene or profane. If anything, the Panel believes that there was an attempt by the broadcaster to avoid being crude with his choice of words.” The Panel did, however, comment that it was in poor taste to broadcast the “gruesome, sexually-tinged” story at a time when families, including children, were getting ready for work and school and that the broadcast would have benefited from a verbal warning to listeners, but it found no Code breach on either of those accounts.
Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence by which they expect the members of their profession will abide. In 1990, they also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those professional broadcast Codes and the pay television Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970. More than 735 radio stations, satellite radio services, television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.
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All CBSC decisions, Codes, links to members' and other web sites, and related information are available on the CBSC's website at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab